People throw the term "bipolar" around a lot these days. It's been a label I have worn for thirty years. I'm calm enough now to articulate what it feels like to be so brilliant that you can't describe it. Which is pretty goddamn ironic, if you ask me. I write down what I think instead of saying it out loud so that I don't cause harm to myself or others.
You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. Oh wait, that’s me.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month which is incredibly good timing because it coincides with me needing to recycle last year's blog post announcing Mental Health Awareness Month. Dumb luck or what?
So here's an oldie but goodie that I post every year to try and keep it real for everybody and I hope you'll like it but I probably won't notice if you don't because I'm hanging on this emotional rollercoaster ride at the moment by a very thin thread. Because OH BY THE WAY I'm amending my Petition from Legal Separation to Dissolution which is the D she wants in "She Wants the D" (a friend told me). But you should totes be aware of mental health and PAY ATTENTION because it sucks being blamed for being sick. You just never know what's going on with someone so just don't assume. Unless you see me wandering around in the supermarket in my bathrobe. Because then you should assume that you need to take my elbow gently but firmly and lead me back to the car and drive me home. But I digress. Surprise.
I wrote this post before I even had a blog. I was inspired by a friend who had just been diagnosed. She was in a full-blown manic episode. Watching her go through that reminded me of what my own episodes were like. I'm calm enough now to articulate what it feels like to be so brilliant that you can't describe it. Which is pretty goddamn ironic, if you ask me.
The hallmark of mania for me is how I feel like a superhero. Creative and brilliant and simply on *fire* with wit and humor. When I was riding the crest of a manic wave, I used to say that I didn't need to eat or sleep because I was bionic. I got really angry with people who said I was wrong to feel that way and that I needed to go to the hospital and take meds so that I wouldn't feel that way any more. I would get so angry that I would snarl at them and claw and hiss and refuse to get out of the car. Wouldn't you? After I was finished the treatment that stopped that wonderful, invincible, genius feeling, I would quit taking my meds cold turkey. I would carouse until all hours of the night, telling anyone who would listen my bright new ideas that tied up every loose end in the universe with one beautiful bow. Holding court on the floor of my room in college, knocking over the bong with my expansive sweeps of my arms as I pontificated to my housemates, who thought I was brilliant, but knew I was nuts. Destroying relationships. Winning hearts and breaking them. Staying in my room for days, talking to myself and scaring my roommates away. Ending up in the nut house time and again.
Now I can recognize when that superstar quality starts to burn and I know I have to nip it in the bud. I let the few people close to me know and I go see the shrink and get extra support and all that good stuff. It is the hardest thing in the world to voluntarily let go of that genius feeling. I simply cannot tell you. But I know that I must. As great as the high feels, the low is going to be a gut-punch that knocks me flat, even though I know it's coming. So I take my meds and I gather my loved ones around me and I brace myself.
A Beautiful Mind
The hallmark of a depressive episode for me is not wanting to be here. I don't think about suicide per se. I don't want to die. I just want not to be here. Everything I've done wrong (which is basically everything), every mistake I've made, every conversation gone awry, every wasted opportunity with my kids, my career -- they all gather together in a threatening thundercloud that hovers over me. The horrible angry voices of what I call "The Committee" begin the litany of exactly how worthless, no, harmful my presence on the planet has been. As evidence of why I shouldn't be here. Shouldn't *have been* here. This whole time. I just want to curl up as small as possible, until I take up no space. No one sees me. I'm not here.
So. Staying in the middle is a good thing. Boring and safe. Learning to feel my feelings, but not too much. That's a tough one. Because I feel my feelings. A lot. Possibly more than I should, whatever that means. Apparently there is a normal amount of feeling, though how you could measure it, I don't know. It certainly doesn't sound very fun to me.
My job is to stay safe. To have creative energy, but not too much. And to channel it in ways that make me glad to be here. And to let it be okay to feel sad, from time to time. But if "worthless" pops up on the psychic horizon, it's time to blow the whistle. Time to remember to do the things that help me, in addition to my meds. Swimming. Playing music. Creating this page, working out my thoughts, writing, laughing. Making people laugh and shake their heads in self-recognition. And maybe a little relief that they are not alone.
I have a mantra that is blinding in its banality. It's insultingly simple. And yet it works for me. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but my mantra comes from a sitcom (yeah, I watch TV, I have teenagers, don't judge) called "How I Met Your Mother."
"When I'm sad, I stop being sad, and be awesome instead. True story."
Of course it's not that easy. But it reminds me that this too shall pass (god I hate that expression, yeah, this too shall pass like a goddamn kidney stone) and I will be awesome again. Until I'm not. And so on. In the meantime, I have a blog. And a page. And a lot, I mean, like a metric fuck-ton of friends I've never met. Who get it. More than most people I know in real life. I'll take it. I mean, what else ya got?
Namaste. And if you're wondering what that means, suffice to say that we meet in the middle where there's mutual respect and understanding. We give each other the benefit of the doubt. We forgive ourselves and each other. We're good to one another. We don't have a choice. This is it.
Namaste, you Nutjobs, you. Happy Mental Health Awareness Month.